Airbus Helicopters hopes the central government will resolve the situation regarding the disinvestment of Pawan Hans Limited "very quickly" so that the national helicopter company can move ahead on its fleet expansion plans, a senior executive of the global aerospace manufacturer said.
Airbus Helicopters had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Pawan Hans Limited (PHL) in Paris in June for collaboration in introducing two new categories of its helicopters - H145 and H225 - in the national company's fleet in the future.
However, on July 11, the central government issued the Preliminary Information Memorandum to sell 51 per cent of its stake in PHL.
As the disinvestment process has begun, PHL has put its fleet expansion plans on hold.
Since July 11, the Centre has deferred the deadline regarding submission of expression of interest for PHL three times. On September 25, the Centre extended the last date in this regard to October 10.
"Pawan Hans, in terms of helicopters, is a national carrier. They do have the wherewithal and the scale to acquire some thing (helicopters) at a large scale," said Head of Helicopters, Airbus India and South Asia, Ashish Saraf.
"Currently, because of disinvestment (discussion), there has been a pause in terms of expansion of Pawan Hans. We do hope that this situation gets on its way in terms of its disinvestment resolved very quickly so that they are on to their expansion plans," he told PTI.
The Centre holds 51 per cent stake in PHL, which has a fleet of 43 helicopters. The remaining 49 per cent is with state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).
"Pawan Hans has an ageing fleet of Dauphin helicopters. Along with Pawan Hans, we are looking at how can we have them replaced by the new generation of helicopters - the H145 and H225," Saraf said.
"For onshore, the H145 will make a great machine...and for some of the offshore requirements, we can look at H175 or H225. There are various possibilities that are being explored," he added.
Thirty-three of the 43 helicopters of PHL are of Airbus. Of the 33 helicopters, 31 are AS365N Dauphin helicopters, the remaining two are AS350 B3.
"Right now, their (PHL) expansion - in terms of capital spend - is put on hold, I would say. But that does not prevent them from leasing....If business is there, they would need machines (helicopters) to cater to that business," Saraf said.
The June MoU stated that Airbus would provide "predictive and scheduled maintenance" for PHL's existing fleet of AS365N Dauphin helicopters.
"We have begun the assessment of their (PHL) current fleet, and the ageing and the condition, and how the upkeep can be done. Together with Pawan Hans, we are currently assessing this," Saraf said.
"There will be certainly a move around on how do we take on jointly the maintenance of this (fleet) so that reliability and upkeep is there for the future," he said.
Out of the total 250 helicopters flying in India for civilian operations, around 100 have been manufactured by Airbus. Companies that use Airbus helicopters in India include Aryan Aviation, Heritage Aviation and Himalayan Heli Services.
"The civil segment is currently growing at about four per cent. I see that more or less stable unless there is a disruption related to policy that opens up a few other segments like Heli EMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Services).
"Currently, our growth is more focused on heli-tourism, VIP transportation, state governments, etc," Saraf said.
According to Saraf, the US and Germany have one EMS helicopter per three lakh people and per 10 lakh people, respectively.
"Even if we have one helicopter for 50 lakh people, there is going to be a requirement of close to 200 helicopters. And, that in itself can become a big 'Make in India' programme and create thousands of jobs," he said.
Currently, the Airbus group has 50 Indian suppliers, but a majority of them manufacture components for the company's planes.
When asked how many of these 50 companies are supplying parts for helicopters, Executive Vice President, Strategic Procurement, Airbus Helicopters, Martin Schuebel, said "very few" and "this is why we are here (in Delhi) to develop" the supply chain for helicopter parts.
On October 9 and October 10, Airbus Helicopters organised a conference with Indian suppliers in Delhi to discuss and check out how a supply chain for helicopter components can be developed from the country.
Around 70 suppliers from all over India took part in this conference last week in the national capital.
"We explain our expectations. We explain the rules and processes etc. And then we get into face-to-face business meetings to agree on further steps and exchange questions, etc, and move forward jointly,"Schuebel told PTI.